COLUMBUS, OH—Sometimes, life is about putting one foot in front of another, even if you don’t know where you’re going. It can certainly feel that way for many people diagnosed with cancer. It’s a life-altering journey that is fraught with emotion and difficulty—and, with no clear outcome as doctors employ treatments to destroy the cancer, or at least, discourage its recurrence.
About 1,685,210 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed and 595,690 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year, which translates to about 1,630 people per day, according to an annual report by the American Cancer Society. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease, and accounts for nearly one of every four deaths.
Recognizing cancer is a worldwide issue, private equity firm Rockbridge Capital knew the stakes were high and sought to do something about it. The firm, headquartered here, mobilized en force to produce “Rock the Road” in collaboration with Pelotonia, an annual cycling fundraiser in support of cancer research and benefitting the James Cancer Hospital. Biking wasn’t the only activity on the agenda for the conference-style event, which included speakers to motivate and educate attendees from the hospitality industry.
“Our company has always made giving back to the community a pillar of what we do. From the beginning, we’ve been very active in really using the gifts, opportunities and skills we have to make a difference. And, it’s not just money,” said Rockbridge President & CEO Jim Merkel. “It’s really important we back it up with engagement and effort and that has galvanized our organization. As we have grown, we have given to a lot of organizations and our team members have supported and been on boards.”
Merkel’s team at Rockbridge was inspired by the work happening at the James Cancer Hospital helmed by Dr. Michael Caligiuri and wanted to lend its support in a major way. Pelotonia was started seven years ago now and it has become the largest fundraiser for cancer research. According to Merkel, the entire community got behind the effort to help it become a national movement.
“A big part of the reason Pelotonia is so successful is Dr. Caligiuri. Not only is he brilliant but he is really able to communicate to everybody at all levels in a very plain way. When you hear him, you walk away saying he’s going to cure cancer because you understand it,” said Merkel. “I heard him speak at an event and he was very clear. It made sense to me and boiled down to the cure for cancer is out there and it’s a matter of funding. Up until that point, I had assumed that it would’ve been cured by now and my eyes were opened to the funding challenges of doing cancer research. I left that event and said ‘I’m not going to be the one to cure cancer, but I can raise money. I have to get behind this.’ That’s what we did and how Rock the Road came to be.”
Rockbridge took great care and responsibility with the event, citing that this fundraising effort wasn’t just about raising money.
“Our goal is to do good business where we’re bringing people together to network and get business done, while having an event where the content is enriching and fulfilling on a personal level and people are walking away from the event feeling like they are better for it,” he said. “We’re paying it forward, so that our loved ones and children don’t have to deal with the challenge of this disease.”